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Democracy digitised?

The name game

E-voting.  M-voting.  I-voting.  Automated voting.  Digital democracy has many names.  Regardless of what you call it, digital democracy is seen by many as the voting way of the future.

Digital democracy at your fingertips

MIT and Caltech established a joint research project on elections and voting in 2000, and have studied in detail aspects of voting systems and methods, including technologically enabled ones, in the USA and elsewhere. 

Jason Tester (now at the Institute for the Future) and the Accelerated Democracy Project created scenarios to illustrate how interactive technologies would impact on voting and politics.

Digital democracy has its pros and cons.  Delivering results quickly is one of the benefits; the threat of hackers is one of the more serious drawbacks.  Certain countries are extremely reluctant to embrace digital voting technology while others, like Estonia , allow voters to submit their ballots via the Internet.  In Estonia’s case, the presidential elections held in March 2011 was the fifth occasion on which electronic votes were permitted.

Digital promise

Before you point out that Estonia isn’t Eritrea (or Angola or Liberia or The Gambia), al-Masry al-Youm, Egypt’s private daily, reports that electronic voting will be used in Egypt’s promised parliamentary and presidential elections.

So, should we hope that a wave of digital democracy will sweep over the continent from the north?

Note to self

Read our selection of digital democracy related articles, and decide for yourself.

  • If you’re planning your own digital democracy initiative, get the right specs by reading this paper by Mohammed Malkawi, Mohammed Khasawneh and Omar Al-Jarrah.
  • Encouraging the uptake of digital democracy technology is Uyinomen and Victor Ekong in their paper on m-voting.
  • Jerome Dunbar reports on the future of electronic voting.
  • An article in ZDNet’s Australian edition advocates for an open source approach to electronic voting.
  • José Rodrigues-Filho, Cynthia Alexander and Luciano Batistain’s paper on e-voting in Brazil offers a cautionary tale about some of the risks.
  • Christopher Hidalgo, too, has something to say about Brazil and digital democracy, particularly election fraud, in his paper.
  • And yet more about Brazil’s digital democracy in a paper by Chrisanthi Avgerou and colleagues.
  • Jarrett Blanc provides critical suggestions and guidance to the donor community about supporting digital democracy systems in developing countries.
  • Stephen Ansolabehere’s discussion paper on the future of electronic voting for The Tobin Project is available here, too.
  • If you'd prefer a more comprehensive look at the issue from a US perspective, read The Myth of Digital Democracy by Matthew Hindman.

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